TOKYO -- Japan's Defense Ministry plans to focus on bolstering the Self-Defense Forces' electronic combat capabilities, looking to catch up with other major powers in a critical aspect of modern warfare.
Electronic warfare will be a cornerstone of the ministry's planned 5.3 trillion yen ($48 billion) budget request for next fiscal year. Specialized departments will be set up within the Joint Staff and the Bureau of Defense Buildup Planning to improve the ministry's policy drafting in this area.
Though the cutting-edge American-made F-35A stealth fighters that the Air Self-Defense Force is now introducing have some electronic warfare capabilities, the mainstay F-15 has no stealth ability to hide from an opponent's radar. The Defense Ministry plans to begin modifying its F-15s next fiscal year to make them less reflective of radar signals and enable them to jam radar as well as defend against electronic attacks.
The ministry will also facilitate sharing and analysis within the SDF of intelligence on other countries' electronic warfare methods. This information will be collected on the Japan Aerospace Defense Ground Environment network, an automated warning and air defense control system, to help units respond more effectively.
This move comes in response to the development of more sophisticated radar electronic attack systems elsewhere in the world. Electronic communications are central to the modern battlefield, enabling fighter jets and ships to share enemy positions. Disrupting enemy networks and protecting friendly ones has grown increasingly important.
Japan lags behind other advanced militaries in this area. The U.S. boasts such assets as the Boeing EA-18G Growler, an airborne electronic attack platform that can jam enemy radar and communications. Tokyo is also considering deploying the Growler, among other options.
The Chinese military established the Strategic Support Force to handle areas such as electronic warfare and is deploying electronic attack aircraft as well. Russia used electronic warfare during the 2014 annexation of Crimea to disrupt drones and Ukrainian military communication.